Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Fort Worth man builds ice chest company from basement up
His ice chests are available in Fort Worth at the TCU Bookstore, Flash Photography, Park Hill Jewelers, the Squire Shop, and Nayfa’s Furniture.
Allan Barr, a Fort Worth native, recently expanded his entrepreneurial venture to the109. His business, which manufactures custom ice chests for companies and universities, has opened a new workshop located at 3030 Sandage Ave.
Barr manufactures, markets and sells his product across the United States. His company, Allan Barr Sales, has licenses to produce customized ice chests for TCU, SMU, North Texas, Texas and Texas A&M. In addition to these universities, Barr has produced ice chests for organizations including Shiner Beers, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals and the National Cutting Horse Association.
“Overall, I’ve probably done more for companies,” Barr said. “I’ve really just scratched the surface of the university market. I haven’t done anything major promotion-wise except for at TCU.”
The inspiration for Barr’s business came after his family sold the printing business in January 2005 that Barr’s father – former Fort Worth Mayor Willard Barr – started in 1947. When (Allan) Barr began selling surplus printing equipment on eBay, he realized a passion for selling products. He began buying products at local markets and selling them online. Soon, Barr was looking for his own product to manufacture and sell.
“I wanted a product that I could manufacture myself and control the cost on,” Barr said. “I had seen an ice chest similar to these. I found the guy who made them and started them and started selling them on eBay.”
Before long, Barr had reengineered his own stronger, sturdier version of the ice chests he had begun selling online.
“I got a call from this guy one day who asked if I could make 25 or 50 of them,” Barr said. “I set up a shop in my basement and started building them. That turned out to be a guy who worked for Shiner Beer. I’ve now made probably 150 ice chests for Shiner Beer and their related companies.”
From the start, Barr’s business has been a self-funded endeavor. Barr started by manufacturing his products in the basement of his own home.
“It was very convenient,” Barr said. “But I had to carry lumber downstairs and product upstairs. I had a work area of about 12 by 15 feet. To work, I had to keep changing my jigs out, put this piece of equipment here or roll this piece over there. It was very time consuming.”
After recently receiving a large promise of an order of 350 to 500 ice chests from a pharmaceutical company, Barr was able to rent the property on Sandage Avenue where he now manufactures his products. Barr said his manufacturing production has increased by 50 percent since he moved to the new location.
His ice chests are available in Fort Worth at the TCU Bookstore, Flash Photography, Park Hill Jewelers, the Squire Shop, and Nayfa’s Furniture. Barr also uses social media to bolster his marketing efforts.
“One of the other things that I’ve done to promote it is through Facebook,” Barr said. “When you sign up and say that you graduated from TCU, I have a little ad that shows up on the right hand side of the page that’s a link to my website. I’ve promoted all the different chests to their appropriate schools through that, and it’s led to a good amount of sales.”
As the owner of his own one-man business, Barr plays many different roles that can make the job difficult at times.
“As a one-man operation, you’re pulled in all different kinds of areas,” Barr said. “You have to order supplies, you have to produce it, you’ve got to ship it, and all the parts have to come together at the right time. Coordinating that can sometimes be a hassle. Then you’re trying to market it and having time to do all those things is sometimes difficult to do.”
Despite these difficulties, Barr still cherishes the benefits of being able to run his own business. Aside from his company, Barr also works as a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Fort Worth.
“I’d have trouble working in a structured office for somebody else because I’ve always been in management,” Barr said. “I can set my own hours. I can do other things and I can make it work with the real estate. Balancing those two sometimes can be difficult, but not usually.”
Barr has been an actively involved member of the Fort Worth community since he was born here in 1947. He graduated from TCU in 1970 with a degree in business management. He has served on the board for the Texas Boys Choir, the Fort Worth Theatre and the Trinity Terrace Retirement Community. He also served as chairman of the Fort Worth Red Cross board and as president of Symphony Society of Fort Worth.
“Our parents raised us with the belief that if you live in a community, you need to give back to that community,” Barr said. “As a result of that we (Barr and his family) have all served actively on community boards and non-profit organizations.”
Two members of Barr’s family have served as mayor of Fort Worth. His father, Willard, was mayor from 1965 to 1967 and his brother, Kenneth, served from 1996 to 2003.
“Everybody knew me, Barr said. “I didn’t know everybody, but everybody knew me. It was kind of fun.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Barr offers this piece of advice: “If you’re going to do something, be passionate about it,” Barr said. “Don’t go about it half heartedly. Don’t buy yourself a job. Do something you’re passionate about.”
For more information on Barr’s company and his product, go to www.abarr.net.
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